by Madeleine Kando
In her novel The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood describes a fundamentalist Christian society where women are reduced to the sole purpose of reproducing. Science fiction, you say? Not so.
The Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision to grant the for-profit company Hobby Lobby the right to deny their employees coverage for contraceptives on religious grounds is bringing us one step closer to such a future. A future, where corporations' religious rights weigh more than a woman's right to birth control and to control her own destiny.
Obama already made a huge concession by exempting churches and religious hospitals from offering health insurance that would cover contraceptives. But that wasn't going far enough for the religious right. It is now the law of the land that a secular, for-profit company can deny their employees access to birth control citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in their defense, an act that was meant to protect individuals, not corporations.
80 other employers have sued to challenge the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate and will point to the Hobby Lobby precedent to argue their case. The one that I will boycott is Eden Foods, the giant health food distributor whose products cram the shelves at my local Whole Foods market. You can go here to take action.
Here is John Oliver's hilarious spoof on the logical consequences of coporations being considered as people. If GM is truly a person, it should get the electric chair for all the people it killed, rather than a fine.
In all fairness, the Supreme Court is very divided on the issue of contraceptive coverage. The three female justices signed a dissent in a separate contraceptive case involving Wheaton College, who already has an exemption. All they needed to do is sign a form stating their objection and the insurer would provide the coverage directly.
Now 122 non-profits have sued, claiming that signing the opt-out form is tantamount to giving 'a permission slip for abortion', even though it doesn't even cover abortion.
The Supreme Court ruled that even signing the form is a violation of religious liberty and that is what the dissent was addressing. Justice Sotomayor wrote: 'Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs. But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.'
Although the majority Justices explicitly stated that their ruling only applied to contraceptives, the Hobby Lobby case has opened the floodgates for other claims that will challenge all sorts of executive mandates, including anti-discrimination rulings.
Already, there is a call for a religious exemption on an upcoming executive order that would stop anyone with a federal contract from discriminating against LGBT people in the hiring process.
This is how an anti-gay pastor justifies the call for an exemption on religious grounds: “While the nation has undergone incredible social and legal change over the last decade, we still live in a nation with different beliefs about sexuality. We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion on this issue in a way that respects the dignity of all parties to the best of our ability.”
In other words, let's use the 1993 Freedom of Religion Restoration Act to give us the right to discriminate.
Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? The Hobby Lobby case has definitely blurred that line. A mandate to cover wellness care for women, including contraceptives has been washed down the drain by a bunch of old men in black robes. The coverage will have to come from government, which means that the taxpayer will be paying for Hobby Lobby's religious beliefs. Corporations ARE people, women, not so much. leave comment here
Saturday, July 5, 2014
by Madeleine Kando